Objectives: To obtain information about basic knowledge towards mental disorders and to evaluate public attitudes towards mental disorders in the Hong Kong Chinese population.
Methods: Questionnaires which collected basic demographic information, opinions about potential stigmas and myths, and knowledge on case vignettes depicting fictional characters with symptoms of mental illness were delivered to subjects in a secondary school, 2 homes for the elderly, a private housing estate, and a public housing estate in Hong Kong.
Results: Completed questionnaires were collected from 1035 subjects. In general, the participants' acceptance of mental illness was good. Regular contacts with such patients were associated with better knowledge (t = -2.71, p < 0.01) and better acceptance (t = 2.77, p < 0.01) of mental illness. Younger participants aged 15 to 19 years had a lower level of knowledge about mental health problems compared with other age-groups (p < 0.001).
Conclusions: Personal contact with people with mental illness may help to improve knowledge and acceptance. Younger people in secondary school should be the target and prioritised group for mental health education. Apart from the delivery of mental health knowledge, strategies to increase social contact of the public with people having mental illness could be considered in the design and implementation of anti-stigma programmes.
Key words: Asian Continental Ancestry Group; Knowledge; Mental disorders; Social stigma
(ProQuest: ... denotes formula omitted.)
Stigma and discrimination associated with psychiatric illness have been evident for as long as such illness has existed.1 Despite the high prevalences of mental health problems, societies continue to hold deep-rooted, culturally sensitive, and often negative beliefs about mental illnesses.2,3 The consequences of stigma and discrimination are so pervasive that they affect the people with mental illness in every aspect of the life, and might also become the main impediment to rehabilitation and recovery.3 Because of the stigma and discrimination, people with mental illness encounter difficulties in obtaining housing, insurance, and employment.4,5 Their relatives and significant others may driftaway resulting in social isolation. Social avoidance is common and various studies suggested that the general population may accept people with mental illness socially, but tend to withdraw from more personal relationships such as working or living together.1,6 As a result, people with mental illness face social isolation, social distance, unemployment, homelessness, and institutionalisation.3
Stigma and discrimination have direct implications for the prevention, early detection, treatment outcome, rehabilitation, and quality of life of people with mental illness, and indirectly affect the life of their significant others.7-11 Stigma acts as an obstacle to the presentation and treatment of mental illness at all stages, and brings about social exclusion.12 Social exclusion and the reduction of social networks could induce a worse outcome in chronic mental disorders.13 The adverse consequences of stigma on help-seeking behaviour and the disease outcomes have been further elaborated by Scheffer.14 In fact, the stigmatisation of mental illness and the lack of information on the symptoms of mental illness are seen as the main barriers to seeking help for mental health problems.
Over the last 50 years or so, stigma and discrimination have become even more significant owing to the trends of deinstitutionalisation and the implementation of community mental health services.15 Negative public attitudes have become an essential factor in the management of mental illness since the beginning of the community mental health movement. People with mental illness can have a successful community reintegration only if the community …